The impact of the short life of tragic soldier Pte Sean Rooney will be felt for generations to come, his parish priest has said.
Fr Philip Kemmy, the parish priest of Newtowncunningham in Co Donegal, addressed parishioners who gathered for the 24-year-old’s Month’s Mind Mass at All Saints Church on Saturday.
Hundreds of locals joined Sean’s family and friends as they remembered the life of the young soldier killed in Lebanon on December 14th, 2022.
Included among the congregation who braved the January cold and rain was Sean’s mother Natasha, her partner Paul McCloskey and as Sean’s fiancee Holly McConnellogue whom he was due to marry in August.
Fr Kemmy said it was not the length of days which made a life honourable but rather how that life was lived.
He added that Sean’s death was not the end but the beginning of something new but accepted that it will be difficult and that their grief will be “raw and hard”.
He said a number of the church’s great saints died at a very young age, referring to St Theresa, St Joan of Arc and St Aloysius Gonzaga.
He told mourners: “We are all living from the benefits of their lives. Quite short lives, but their life has a ripple effect that goes on.”
“And Sean’s life, far too short, has a ripple effect way beyond the years that we might have expected for him because that ripple effect of his life, so well lived and so lived full of love that will go on in your lives and even into other generations.”
The first reading of the mass was read by Sean’s fiancee Holly.
Fr Kemmy paid a special tribute to the young Derry woman, saying he could not help but feeling a deep sadness for her.
He said that only yesterday he attended the 60th wedding anniversary mass of a local couple and that all he could do was think of Holly and how she will not celebrate such milestones with Sean.
He also paid tribute to Sean’s mother Natasha and her partner Paul whom he said he had witnessed preparing Sean’s grave for the Month’s Mind Mass earlier in the week.
He said that most people simply will not know what to say to Sean’s family but that is certainly not to say that they are not holding them deep in their hearts.
He added “Natasha, Paul and the wider family, we are praying for you, we have been and will continue to do so,” he said.
“We can’t get inside your heart and live that grief for you, it’s all your own but you don’t have to bear it on your own.
“So many of us, we don’t know what to say to you, but we know what to say to God on your behalf and we will continue to do that.”
Among the Prayers of the Faithful was a special prayer for all those around the world who worked to make peace.
The congregation also included representatives of the Defence Forces, both serving and retired.
Fr Kemmy thanked members of the Inishowen Gate Singers who provided the hymns at the mass.
A second Month’s Mind mass for Pte Rooney will take place at the Church of the Holy Family in Dundalk on Sunday.
Having joined the Irish Defence Forces in March 2019, Pte Rooney’s home unit was the 27 Infantry Battalion, Aiken Barracks, Dundalk.
Directly after today’s mass, members of Sean’s family and friends made their way to his graveside in the adjoining cemetery to spend personal time with the fallen soldier.